Solution: Green card recapture and fix the formula
An immediate and efficient first step to address backlogs would be to “recapture” previously unused green cards, making them available to individuals seeking a green card today. Green card recapture would simply ensure that green cards that Congress had allocated in previous years end up being used, per Congressional intent, and are not permanently lost; it would not increase immigration or authorize new green cards.13
Congress should also fix the formula so that, regardless of the number of immediate relatives admitted, unused employment-based green cards are added to the 226,000 family-based floor, and roll back to the employment category if not fully used.
Congress has previously acted to recapture some unused employment-based green cards.The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (Pub. L. 106–313) included a one-time recapture of 130,039 green cards that went unused from 1999 to 2000. The REAL ID Act of 2005 (Pub. L. 109-13) recaptured 50,000 green cards, though these were made available only for nurses.
Since the last green card recapture effort in 2005, an estimated 15,000 green cards have gone unused by any employment- or family-based immigrant and are effectively “lost.” If extended back to 1992, green card recapture could provide more than 220,000 previously unused green cards for aspiring immigrants stuck in the backlogs (see table below for more information).